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Toyota's subversive anti-car
Mickey Kaus
slate.msn.com

The first car to catch my eye at Budget (Rent-a-Car) was Toyota's youth-brand Scion xB.

I love it. Why? First, it completes the deconstruction of the SUV that began with the "cute ute" Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 answered the question, "What if you kept the SUV's tough, off-road image but subtracted the heavy chassis and gas-chugging V-8?" Then came the Honda Element, which (like the RAV4) had the guts of an economy car but (unlike the RAV4) managed to keep an SUV's cavernous interior volume. Now comes the Scion, which subtracts two more factors in the traditional SUV equation—pointlessly high ground clearance and four-wheel drive.

You gain a lot by losing all that SUV. Like low mass, and a low center of gravity. My rental Scion handled shockingly well. You could throw it around corners as if you weren't practically standing straight up like a tourist stuck to the wall at one of those whirling antigravity rides. And while the Element accelerates as if it were a subway during a work-to-rule slowdown, the Scion scoots. Plus the ride (criticized in some car mags) seemed almost creamy on my near-new sample. Brakes? Good. Turning circle? Lousy, but who cares.

Final selling point: a peculiar kind of authenticity, as an unadulterated example of a weird, hybrid, previously nonexistent automotive genre. The Element is a fake Panzer, badly in need of a big, tough engine to match its big, tough looks. The Scion is exactly what it pretends to be: a polished, snazzy-looking carrier for you and your friends that does everything you need an urban car to do. It's fast enough and more than roomy enough—a serotonin-elevating design statement, with its lip-gloss paint job, speckled seats and happy off-kilter speedometer. (Even the Vehicle ID plate is cool-looking.) You can carry practically anything and have about as much fun carrying it as you can have legally in a front-drive vehicle on public roads. You can give it to the valet at Michael's and everyone will smile at you.

Did I mention that it costs about $14,000, including CD player? That's what makes this box so deeply subversive of the automobile market. Why does anyone have to buy anything more? Do you need to pay $40,000 for a "near luxury" vehicle that makes you look like another climbing careerist and won't get you the valet smile? What can a Jaguar X-type do again—legally, within the confines of Los Angeles—that the Scion can't? It makes no sense to play the automotive one-upping game when for $14,000 you can look good while laughing at the game (thereby winning it). True, that's always been possible by driving a cheap-chic used car (like an old 1960s GM creamboat). But it's previously been impossible to pull off in a new vehicle.

The market Toyota is pursuing with the xB is the young—21-year-olds just out of college, skateboarders, etc. I don't know if those people will go for it. But a market Scion has hit dead-on is the rich, the same people who eagerly buy Vuitton copy bags at house parties and then wink at each other. They have mansions. They don't need to waste money on anything else. But they might need a second or third car to haul things.

Finally, the Scion makes other cars seem absurdly, pointlessly, tragically ... round. What does all that swooping and carving and tumblehoming do again, other than rob you of the interior space that your footprint on the asphalt says is rightfully yours? Why would anyone want to spend, say, five grand extra on Toyota's rounded, thick-walled Matrix when that $5,000 buys you a claustrophobic, egg-like interior with 12 fewer cubic feet of room? Drive a Scion for a few days and you'll see other cars the way Humbert Humbert saw college girls—as repulsively over-ripe.

On a scale of 1-10 in the patented Gearbox Parking Lot Test—measuring how happy I was to come out of a movie and see it waiting for me—I give this anti-car an 8. That's as high as I'm likely to give a front-driver. But before you run out and buy it, you should know a few things:

1) It lists for $14,000, but Scion dealers around L.A. are tacking on all sorts of pointless appearance options and getting about $20,000. The appearance add-ons allegedly allow you to "individualize" your Scion, but mainly they make it uglier (or "even uglier," depending on your initial assessment). The $20,000 price makes it uglier, too.

2) It's surprisingly tinny in a few spots, for a Toyota. The thin metal rear door in my rental vehicle buzzed, and the key fob stopped locking and unlocking the doors early on. In fact, the Scion brand came off shockingly poorly on a recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, with 158 complaints per 100 vehicles—mainly relatively minor problems. (The industry average is 119.) Some Texas customers have groused that the Scion's A.C. isn't strong enough to handle the local climate.

3) The xB may not look cool forever. My mother, who is either a lagging or leading indicator, said it looked like an English van that should be "hauling sides of beef." The point of reference was lost on me. (Hauling sides of beef sounds pretty cool!) But it's possible that if enough Scions—and soon-to-come competing cubes—populate the roads, they'll stop looking fun and start to look dull, the way square "space container" buildings began to look dull once you'd seen enough of them. One way for Toyota to keep the Scion subversive would be to go Swatchy—keep the good cheap mechanicals but use computer technology to redo the styling every year, so $14,000 always buys you attention. They could even charge $15,000.



Full Review Here
 

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We were going to buy something, ANYTHING from GM at my insistance (wife was more open-minded) . Looked at the VUE..$22k and no budging on the price, eventhough there are STILL 12 '03's on the lot. ViBE: not enough room for my 6'1 frame and kids in the back and then the price: base $ 18k.

Chevy & GMC kept pushing us toward $25 to $29k trucklets or suv's soo....I remembered the 'goofy looking Scion'

We went to the dealer, wife optioned one out (Auto / CD/ Spoiler / red accents & gfx...don't ask) and it topped out @ $15597. Needless to say, it's in my garage. I gets alot of looks, fills up on $12 and fits our 5-person family just fine.

The '93 Roadmonster isn't exactly gathering dust, but she is coming up on a replacement date. I'd like to buy GM, but with no RWD full-size sedans / coupes / wagons (BTW: the Imp/bonneville/MC ARE NOT full-sized) the pickings are slim.

I do hear that there is this thing called the 300C or a Magnum, which GM dealership sells those?.... :drevil:
 

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This reviewer is a retard -- this Scion by far the ugliest thing I've ever seen. It makes the Aztek look like a '57 Bel Air by comparison.
 

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I think Scions are the greatest!! They have their own unique look and a modern/functional interior design that I like. The net Tc is awesome. I subscribe to Motor Trend and Car and Driver and they both loved it. They also loved the Xb. I think Scion's done a great job and they are popping up everywhere around here in my town. If I had to choose between an element or an xb I'd pick the xb. By far the coolest little car out there right now. ;) :D :p B)
 

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As much as I'm intrigued by the idea of Scion, the fact that Britney Spears's mother drives one sums up the division for me.

(Oh my God, did I just say that?! I know that tidbit only because it was on the local news that Britney had a hissy fit when her mother, who was driving an xB, struck a member of the paparazzi).

Really, I'm not a Britney fan!

Really... :D
 

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What is this world coming to when people think these ugly "things" are actually good looking vehicles? I would rather drive a Ford than even look at a Scion. Every time I see them, I throw up in my mouth a little bit.
 

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This reviewer is a retard -- this Scion by far the ugliest thing I've ever seen. It makes the Aztek look like a '57 Bel Air by comparison.
seems everyone's getting tired of the retro look, and everyone copying someone else's styling, so what's wrong with Scion? a company makes a new look, not retro, and not "me too", and everyone bashes them for its looks. it's a hit in Japan, and ugly or not, it will probably succeed here, too. remember the lowly (original) VW Beetle? it was ugly in its day, too, but broke many sales records along the way.
 

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and toyota is smart not to directly mess with their winning formula. they can play the toyota-scion relationship when it's to their advantage (hey, it's built by toyota... must be good), and downplay it if scion fails (hey, scion tanked... but come look at toyotas corolla!). we all complain about how dull toyotas are... scion is nothing if not different!

i think the aztek probably hurt pontiac a little. i know people who don't like the vibe because it's the 'baby aztek', whereas i'm sure if there was no aztek they wouldn't mind the car on its own virtues.

so i figure scion is a useful exercise by toyota. if anything GM should take a page from their book and try to spin saturn into something as distinctive.
 

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The Xa and Xb are weird, but the Scion that GM and other small coupe manufacturers have to worry about is the Scion TC. It looks good has been getting good press and is fully loaded with panarama sunroof, 17" alloys, etc. for only 16,400. The only options are side airbags and an automatic transmission. Plus it is a hatchback that looks like a coupe (better utility). I fear the Cobalt with similar options will run at least 3,000 more. :unsure:
 

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yes, the Aztek is ugly, BUT my wife still considered it!

Again it was the price and the un-cooperative nature of the GM dealerships.

Local B-P & Saturn dealerships: Give us $2000 as a downAND your trade & either a nut or ovary & we'll think about it.

Scion / Toyota: what do you want your payment to be & what options. An hour later, she's got a Scion & i've got an interactive DVD on the TC (it was March). I'm still wating for my local Chevy dealers to learn how to spell Cobalt, much less have any literature.

I still want to buy GM, but with no new product(s) coming it's pretty bleak. :drevil:
 

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I think Scions are horrible little dumpsters on wheels, at least they are cheap though, so they have one thing going for them, but I'm sorry, for the money there are so many more better looking and better driving cars than these penalty boxes on wheels.


It's pretty clear that whoever wrote this article really does not know, or care much about cars, it was evident in this excerpt:


What can a Jaguar X-type do again—legally, within the confines of Los Angeles—that the Scion can't?
Uhhh...how about look good? Provide you with comfort? What you can do legally and ill-legally on the roads of Los Angeles depends on what time of the day you are on the roads.


For $13,000-$14,000 grand I would rather buy a used Camaro Z28, than a Scion, or new Cavalier coupe, and ION coupe, or a Mazda 3, or anything else ....if I was looking in that price range, the Scion would be my dead last choice....I would possibly consider a bus pass rather than being seen in one of those things....sorry, but thats my opinion.






We were going to buy something, ANYTHING from GM at my insistance (wife was more open-minded) . Looked at the VUE..$22k and no budging on the price, eventhough there are STILL 12 '03's on the lot. ViBE: not enough room for my 6'1 frame and kids in the back and then the price: base $ 18k.

Chevy & GMC kept pushing us toward $25 to $29k trucklets or suv's soo....I remembered the 'goofy looking Scion'

We went to the dealer, wife optioned one out (Auto / CD/ Spoiler / red accents & gfx...don't ask) and it topped out @ $15597. Needless to say, it's in my garage. I gets alot of looks, fills up on $12 and fits our 5-person family just fine.

The '93 Roadmonster isn't exactly gathering dust, but she is coming up on a replacement date. I'd like to buy GM, but with no RWD full-size sedans / coupes / wagons (BTW: the Imp/bonneville/MC ARE NOT full-sized) the pickings are slim.

I do hear that there is this thing called the 300C or a Magnum, which GM dealership sells those?....

Ok...I have pointed out in another posts that the Bonneville is a G body FULL-SIZE car based on the same platform as a LeSabre. The Impala and Monte Carlo are not full-size, but just a tad under full-size, as they ride on a streched w body platform. But both of these cars are larger inside and out than either a 300C or a Magnum.


Monte Carlo
197.9 inches long
15.8 cubic ft of trunk space
98 cubic ft of interior volume

Impala
200.00 inches long
18.6 cubic ft of trunk space
104 cubic ft of interior volume

Bonneville
202.6 inches long
18.0 cubic ft of trunk space
104 cubic ft of interior volume


Now compare these "non-full-size" cars to the "huge" 300C and Magnum

300C
196.8 inches long
15.6 cubic ft of trunk space
107 cubic ft of interior volume

Magnum
197.7 inches long
27.2 cubic ft of cargo space with seat up
71.6 cubic ft with seats down
106 cubic ft of interior volume

Please I have made this comparision on another post, so I am not even going to bring up the Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon numbers again, and how a better comparison to the Roadmaster wagon would be a Suburban 1500. But of course you ignored that.

The Suburban is almost a perfect match for the Roadmaster Estate, both have full perimeter frames with solid components underneath, the Magnum does not, both can tow more than 5000lb, the Magnum cant, both can seat more than 6 passengers, the Magnum cant. I am not knocking the Magnum, it's a pretty cool vehicle, but, I'm sorry, as wagons go, it's a poor excuse, nowhere near the leauge of the Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon.

Dont you have the Buick Roadmaster Estate that is about to die with "only" 175,000 miles?

If you could ony get 175,000 out of one of those beasts, good luck getting 30,000 out of the Scion and 70,000 out of the Dodge/Chrysler...you might be better of finding a used 1996 Roadmaster wagon on ebay with low miles for much less money than a Magnum or Suburban.

Look at the comparable interior and trunk space numbers for both of the models.


Heres a few "big cars"

Buick:

LeSabre
200 inches long
18 cubic ft of trunk space
108 cubic ft of interior volume

Park Avenue
206.8 inches long
19.1 cubic ft of trunk space
112 cubic ft of interior volume

You can get a 04 LeSabre Custom with rebates for about $20,000 and a 04 Park Avenue with rebates for about $28,000, neither of which is a bad deal. Heck, a 04 Impala is about $17,000 with rebates, thats only about $1500 more than the rolling dumpster Scion, seats 6 and has a V6 motor, you could have saved $1000 and gotten a 4 cylinder Malibu, which is a real car, with more interior space, and IMO better looks, if you gotta have a small square car, you could have saved $4000 and bought an Aveo, they list for about $11,000 for and LS model and even less for the base model.

Scion Aveo

Length 155.3 152.7
Cargo Volume(seat up/down) na/43.4 7.0/42.0 cu/ft
Interior Volume 90.0 91 cu ft
hp 108hp 103hp
MPG 30/33 27/35

Very comparable!

So please either look at the numbers and make a rational decision about what is and is not a full-size car....i.e Bonneville, LeSabre are full size.....300 is not, or just go an buy a 300 or a Magnum and stop whining about how GM does not make a car like the 300, go buy the must have RWD car and solve whatever inadequacy that you think buying the 300 or Magnum will solve, even though it will not replace your Buick Roadmaster Estate.
 

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Originally posted by spdwayGm@Jul 5 2004, 02:03 PM
Again it was the price and the un-cooperative nature of the GM dealerships.

Maybe you need to find a new dealership. My father just bought a 2004 Pontiac Montana which stickered at $31k, for less than $21k (with only 8 miles on it). Not only that, they gave him over $2000 for his '95 Lumina van that had about 170K miles on it. Some dealers are willing to deal, some aren't. I guess it depends on how badly they want to make a sale.
 

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Originally posted by MCGARRETT@Jul 5 2004, 07:29 PM
...Heres a few "big cars"

Buick:

LeSabre
200 inches long
18 cubic ft of trunk space
108 cubic ft of interior volume

Park Avenue
206.8 inches long
19.1 cubic ft of trunk space
112 cubic ft of interior volume...
It seems like you're using the standard EPA size classification of vehicles, no?

EPA

I ask only because I've had this discussion with someone on another website, though he seemed to eschew the EPA's designation - a fairly systematized way of classifying vehicles - in favor of his more personal, subjective classification system that relied on car length.
 

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Scion. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. XA, XB, DOA.
 

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I agree that Scion's first cars out of the box are ugly, but I think the tC coupe is a legitmate entry for Scion. I think this is the car to get Scion going. The box and xA were for people to take notice, and everybody did. Even though some called them ugly, they did draw our attention. I guess negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Just think what the intial success of Scion must be doing to people like Lutz and the other GM execs. They are just trying to reach the Camry and Lexus brand, and now Toyota throws out the box on wheels (which shouldn't work style wise) and they have some positive success with it. Detroit must think it is in a negative universe or something for people to actually say they love the xB. Where does GM go from here?
 

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I have seen some Xa's with the toyota 17 inch wheel and tire packages that looked really good. Seeing how they are cheap, handle well, and get excelent gas mileage not a bad little car for the price.
Maybe they are terribly lacking in power, but then again how many times am I really pushing the accerlating ability of my car? Not much.
 
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